We’re all hopelessly addicted to our phones, and we’re all incredibly irritated by the way our devices suck up so much of our time and attention. Apple just showed off iOS 15, a software update coming to iPhones this spring that will solve some of those annoyances.
The biggest new features are centered around communication — specifically how we use texts and video calls to stay in touch — but there are also new notifications tools designed to minimise distraction so your deeply disturbing Screen Time report may be slightly less so. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s dive in.
FaceTime’s Quarantine Overhaul
Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote by focusing on FaceTime. Apple’s native video-conferencing app has been doing a lot of heavy lifting throughout the covid-19 pandemic, and Apple is adding a ton of new features that will make communication a lot easier — though now that lockdown is easing and many of us are returning to pre-pandemic routines, these features seem like they would’ve been a lot more useful in iOS 14.
FaceTime now works with Apple’s version of surround sound, called Spatial Audio, which will make group video calls sound more natural — like they would in actual life. Two new microphone features let you toggle between voice isolation, which picks up your voice and drowns out ambient noise, and wide spectrum, which lets your FaceTime calls hear everything going on around you. FaceTime calls also now support Portrait Mode, so your background is blurred.
You can also now create FaceTime call links in advance, and you can share them with both your iPhone-using friends and Android pals, who can call in using FaceTime on the web.
Those group calls are about to get a little more fun. Apple is introducing a new FaceTime feature called SharePlay, which lets you watch movies, listen to music, and share your screen in a FaceTime call. SharePlay supports Apple’s native apps, like Apple TV and Apple Music, but also third-party apps like HBO Max, TikTok, Disney+, Hulu, Twitch, MasterClass, Paramount+, NBA, and ESPN+. You can AirPlay content to another Apple device while on a call if you need to watch on a bigger screen.
Easier Sharing in Messages
I don’t know about you, but when people share photos, songs, or links to news articles with me, unless I deal with them at that moment, I will almost certainly forget to read the article or listen to the song.
Apple has a new Shared With You feature in iOS 15 that shows you what your friends have shared with you in specific Apple apps, like Music, News, Photos, Safari, Podcasts, and Apple TV. A New Shared With You section will show up in those apps so you can see who shared it with you and jump back into a message to continue discussing the content.
More Focused Notifications
If using your iPhone becomes overwhelming due to the constant barrage of notifications from all the work and personal apps you use, iOS 15 will likely be a game-changer.
Now Apple will bundle notifications — except for messages — in one notification summary that will be delivered whenever you decide you want to see it.
A new feature called Focus will let you choose between Do Not Disturb, Work, and Personal. With Work or Personal enabled, you’ll see notifications specific to those profiles (and, of course, you’ll be able to customise which apps are categorised as either Work or Personal). Your iPhone will also let your contacts know when you have Do Not Disturb activated in Focus, so they know you’re not avoiding them — and they’ll still be able to send a message through if it’s important.
New Photo Features
In iOS 15, you’ll be able to use your iPhone camera to scan text from a photo. You’ll be able to copy and paste that text in an email, look up more information from the photo, or translate text from seven different languages.
You can also search your photos directly from the Spotlight screen, and Apple’s photo memories will add Apple Music tracks to its AI-generated videos for a more professional gloss.
Apple hasn’t yet detailed when iOS 15 will be publicly available, but traditionally the new version of iOS rolls out alongside new iPhones in spring.